Pelthe 8, 5682---The cry rang out loud and clear, competing only with the strong rumbles of falling rock somewhere in the distance. “We found two more!”
Nixee’Bel, one of the youngest woman among those from the Sisterhood of Jadela’Mar looked up from her work among the wounded on the beach. Soldiers clambered across the barren wasteland to the source of the cry. After a day of searching, the hope to find more survivors decreased with every hour. It was a tiresome process searching the caves. Some tunnels were undamaged, while others were impassible until cleared. Now someone had found two more survivors, and a squad was bringing them out. Work paused as people looked to get a glimpse of who the soldiers were bringing out.
The women on the stretchers were black and dirty, their clothing torn to shreds. The first one out raised a hand to block the afternoon sun from her eyes as the soldiers carried the stretcher to the beach. A flash of purple as her movement shifted her clothing signaled that she was from the Sisterhood of Jadela’Mar. The second woman did not move.
Nixee’Bel swept a lock of her wavy black hair out of her face, and turned back to her work. She was washing dirty bandages, and with the many wounded soldiers having their bandages changed, the pile never seemed to shrink. It was a menial task at best, but somebody had to do it.
“I will take over for you,” someone interrupted as Nixee’Bel hung clean bandages to dry.
Nixee’Bel looked to see who was talking, and saw Iifelaroi’Hun, the former Supreme Mistress. She made a quick curtsy in front of the older woman. “Everyone else is too busy tending wounds,” she quickly replied.
“There are many wounded,” Iifelaroi’Hun agreed, “but such is the nature of war. You should be out among them gaining experience, not standing to the side washing the bandages.” She pointed toward the soldiers carrying the two Sisters. “You see those two?” she asked Nixee’Bel. “They and I might have our differences, but I am almost certain they saved all our lives. Go take charge of their healing, and I will care for the bandages.”
Nixee’Bel hesitated, unsure how to respond. She wanted to be able to help the others, but she did not want others to think she was shirking her duty. “I can’t just leave my post,” she argued, motioning toward the pile of dirty bandages.
“Don’t give me that nonsense excuse, girl,” Iifelaroi’Hun growled. “Everyone else is busy, and I am here to take your place. Go take charge of those two, and I guarantee others will line up to assist you.” Nixee’Bel still appeared unconvinced, so Iifelaroi’Hun continued. “I am doing you a favor. Attend to those two, and you will find your importance within the Sisterhood improves greatly. Now shoo, or you’ll never amount to more than a bandage cleaner the rest of your life.”
Nixee’Bel quickly curtsied again, grabbed several clean bandages, and rushed across the beach, stopping only to grab a pail of water. She was careful not to make it obvious that she planned to assist the two injured Sisters with the hope that no one else would think to compete for the opportunity. She soon met the approaching soldiers, and directed them where to set down the stretchers side by side but with enough space for her to move between them.
“What is the extent of their injuries?” she asked the soldiers as she knelt looking over the woman who was conscious enough to move. She held a cup of water to the woman’s lips, and helped her take a sip.
“We found them together in what was once the tunnel to below,” the soldier answered. “They were wedged between the tunnel wall and a wall of fresh slag that completely blocked off the passageway. How they survived, I cannot guess, but she...” He pointed toward the unconscious woman. “Whatever happened to make the land cave in, she took the brunt of it. We had to pry her hands out of the slag, which was very strange; the heat should have incinerated both of these women.”
Nixee’Bel set down the cup and turned around to examine the unconscious woman to make a quick diagnosis of the injuries. The hands were burned black, but what seemed to be the worst injury was a large flap of her scalp hanging loose on one side of her head. “Hagsnik, quick!” Nixee’Bel shouted.
She leaned close, and delicately cleaned the dirt out the wound. “Do you know what caused this?” she asked the soldiers.
The soldier knelt down on the other side of the body. “It could be any number of things,” he admitted. “Flying rocks, an arrow---we did find several of those in the tunnel---a knife; any of those could cause a wound like that.”
Someone knelt beside Nixee’Bel, and handed her a small jar of hagsnik. It was another Sister, although not one of the ones Nixee’Bel knew. “It looks Tora’Sor like will need several jars of hagsnik and more fortune than if she had three Lunari coming to her aid,” the Sister observed, “Elendra’Tel, however, should only need a small amount.” The woman paused. “This will be difficult for you. Would you like me to take over?”
Nixee’Bel shook her head as she gently spread the ointment on Tora’Sor’s head wound. Now that she knew who she was caring for, she understood Iifelaroi’Hun’s comment that it would improve her standing in the Sisterhood. She didn’t know much about Elendra’Tel, but Tora’Sor was a woman famous or infamous for her exploits, depending on who you talked to, and if Tora’Sor survived, Nixee’Bel would always be known as the woman who saved Tora’Sor’s life. “They are in my care,” she told the other Sister, “but I do not refuse your assistance. After all, I believe you mentioned that I will require more hagsnik, if you would be so kind as to retrieve it.”
The woman looked up at the soldier who still knelt on the other side of Tora’Sor. “Sir, please bring us five jars from the quartermaster before you return to your work.”
The soldier nodded, and stood up. “Yes, ma’am,” he said, turning to leave.
The woman put her hand on Nixee’Bel’s shoulder. “I take it this is your first expedition,” she guessed.
Nixee’Bel nodded. “It is, but that does not mean I am incapable.”
“Of course not,” the woman replied, “but there are some things training will never prepare you to encounter. By the way, my name is Sila’Kon, and truth be told, this is only my second expedition.”
“Sila’Kon?” Nixee’Bel wondered, looking up at the woman. “The name sounds familiar.”
“Everyone knows the name, but no one remembers where they heard it,” Sila’Kon mused. She stood up and turned around to kneel beside Elendra’Tel.
“Why is that?” Nixee’Bel asked.
“She took the first of Josloy’s journals back to Atalan,” Elendra’Tel groaned. “Can I have some more water?”
Nixee’Bel handed the bucket of water and the cup to Sila’Kon, and began to examine closely an oddity with Tora’Sor’s head wound. There was scar tissue already growing along the edges of the wound, so the wound no longer closed properly. “This might be a problem,” she said. “The wound is healing before I can close it.”
Sila’Kon turned around. “Are you sure? Not even hagsnik can heal that fast.”
“Look here,” Nixee’Bel said, holding the flap of skin in place. “If I stitch the edges as they are, she’ll have a bulge on the side of her head.”
Sila’Kon examined Tora’Sor’s hands. “Something is happening that is beyond either of us,” she decided. “Even the burns are healing, something neither of us could do, and considering what those soldiers told you about prying her out of the slag, I find it hard to believe she is still whole.”
“Then what would you recommend?” Nixee’Bel asked.
Sila’Kon glanced around the area. Everyone else was busy tending other wounded. “I would normally suggest consulting a High Mistress,” she answered, “but it seems we’re on our own for now. The only other thing I could suggest would be to trim off the excess skin, and then stitch the wound. Do you have a surgeon’s stone?”
“I was just washing bandages, so I do not have more than the basic tools with me,” she admitted.
“Here, use mine,” Sila’Kon said, handing Nixee’Bel a small knife and a flat smooth stone. “Were you trained how to use it?”
Nixee’Bel nodded. She carefully noted where she needed to cut, and put the flap of skin firmly on the stone. She then made a swift slice with the knife. Setting aside the equipment, she put what remained of the flap of skin back in its place on Tora’Sor’s head. “I need the needle and thread to stitch this,” she said.
“I have that too,” Sila’Kon said, handing over the items.
Several minutes later, Tora’Sor’s head wound was stitched and bandaged. “How should I go about bandaging her burns?” Nixee’Bel wondered.
“I wouldn’t bother,” Elendra’Tel suggested hoarsely. “You said she was already healing faster than you could ever expect. Let it happen without intervention and she’ll probably turn out better than if you do intervene.”
“Then we’ll just have to wait and see what happens,” Nixee’Bel decided.